Microfluidic technologies for the synthesis and manipulation of biomimetic membranous nano-assemblies
Microfluidics has been proposed as an attractive alternative to conventional bulk methods used in the generation of self-assembled biomimetic structures, particularly where there is a desire for more scalable production. The approach also allows for greater control over the self-assembly process, and parameters such as particle architecture, size, and composition can be finely tuned. Microfluidic techniques used in the generation of microscale assemblies (giant vesicles and higher-order multi-compartment assemblies) are fairly well established. These tend to rely on microdroplet templation, and the resulting structures have found use as comparmentalised motifs in artificial cells. Challenges in generating sub-micron droplets have meant that reconfiguring this approach to form nano-scale structures is not straightforward. This is beginning to change however, and recent technological advances have instigated the manufacture and manipulation of an increasingly diverse repertoire of biomimetic nano-assemblies, including liposomes, polymersomes, hybrid particles, multi-lamellar structures, cubosomes, hexosomes, nanodiscs, and virus-like particles. The following review will discuss these higher-order self-assembled nanostructures, including their biochemical and industrial applications, and techniques used in their production and analysis. We suggest ways in which existing technologies could be repurposed for the enhanced design, manufacture, and exploitation of these structures and discuss potential challenges and future research directions. By compiling recent advances in this area, it is hoped we will inspire future efforts toward establishing scalable microfluidic platforms for the generation of biomimetic nanoparticles of enhanced architectural and functional complexity.